Why December 10? It was on December 10th, 1948, that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted at the UN by world leaders. Canadian John Humphrey was one of the principal writers of the UDHR. Most international human rights law draws from the UDHR.
Unfortunately, human rights violations, including torture, unfair trials, mass killings, enforced disappearances and unlawful eviction are still common in many countries.
Write for Rights marks International Human Rights Day by bombarding the authorities responsible for human rights abuses with letters from all over the world focused on just a few selected cases. Amnesty International has proof that your messages help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for expressing their opinion, stop the use of torture and end other human rights abuses.
10 ways your words are changing lives
As we get ready for Write for Rights 2015, our global letter-writing marathon, we look at how your words and ongoing campaigning made change happen after the 2014 campaign.
1. Freedom in Nigeria: the Governor of Delta State responded to pressure from Amnesty supporters and granted a full pardon to Moses Akatugba, who had been sentenced to death (aged 16) for stealing three phones.
2. Investigating torture in the Philippines: the Philippines police announced that letters sent by a “human rights organisation” – which we can confidently say is Amnesty International – have prompted them to investigate the shocking torture of Jerryme Corre (see photo), who was electrocuted, punched and threatened with death.
3. Changing the law in Norway: the Norwegian government said it will change the law for people who want to change their legal gender. It follows our campaigning for John Jeanette Solstad Remø, a transgender woman who was unable to change her legal gender without compulsory medical treatment.
4. Allowing prison visits in China: the daughter of Liu Ping, the activist jailed for fighting corruption in China, has finally been allowed to visit her in prison. The international attention on the case may have played a role in this positive development.
5. Fighting racism in Greece: Paraskevi Kokoni, the Roma woman beaten up in a vicious racist attack in western Greece, met with the Greek Minister of Justice to hand over letters collected during Write for Rights. The Minister said the current anti-racist legislation is “insufficient” and proposed measures to change it.
6. Improving healthcare in South Africa: women and girls in Mkhondo, South Africa, now have better access to pregnancy healthcare. One clinic has increased its antenatal service from two to seven days a week, dramatically reducing waiting times. Government officials have also visited the town to assess and monitor the situation, and health workers have taken up the cause, putting pressure on government to give them more resources.
7.Raising awareness in the United Arab Emirates: you fought for Mohammed Al-Roken, who was jailed for 10 years after a huge crackdown on political and human rights activists in the UAE.
8. Giving strength in Uzbekistan: the family of Erkin Musaev, who was falsely accused of spying and jailed for 20 years after unfair trials in Uzbekistan, have told us your letters are giving him “strength, optimism and faith.” Erkin passes on a huge thank you to everyone who is not indifferent to his fate.
9. Supporting Chelsea Manning in the USA: together, we took more than 240,000 actions for Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison after leaking classified US government material. “I’m so thankful for having all of your support to keep me optimistic,” she told us. “I’m staying strong because of you!”
10. Getting compensation in India: the Indian government said it will revise the number of deaths and injuries for which it is seeking compensation following the 1984 toxic gas leak in Bhopal. This could be a huge step towards ensuring the companies involved pay for the true scale of the disaster.
Source: Amnesty International Canada, amnesty.ca.
For 33 years, Common Ground has supported peace and social justice.
Your letters make a difference!
On or near December 10, we invite you to get involved by either writing letters from your home or hosting a public letter writing event. Either way, let Amnesty know you’re participating by registering your event at www.writeathon.ca On the site, you will also find case descriptions, tips on letter writing and information about public events taking place near you.